7 Dinner Shortcuts That Will Save You Time!

7 Dinner Shortcuts That Will Save You Time!

By: Leanne Ely


Regardless of how you feel about cooking, nobody wants to be a slave to the kitchen. We are all so busy these days that we need as many shortcuts as we can possibly find for getting a good home-cooked meal on the table with the minimum amount of stress!

It’s no good to find yourself at the end of a crazy day standing in front of the fridge praying for inspiration to hit as you try to figure out what to feed the hungry people in your house. (That’s the danger zone where you’re likely to pick up the phone and call for pizza, don’t do it!

Here are 7 shortcuts to help you get your evening meal under control!

1. Crock and roll. Dust off the crockpot and put it to work. This ultimate shortcut appliance can save you a ton of time on dinner prep. Assemble your crock ingredients in the crock liner the night before and refrigerate the works overnight. Then, all you need to do in the morning is plunk it in and plug it in!

2. Marinate meat before freezing. How many times have you gone to make a recipe and realized that you have to marinate the meat for several hours first? When you’re freezing your chicken, beef or pork, freeze it along with a marinade. That way, it will get good and tasty while it thaws, and you’ve saved a step. Oh, and that thaw? The new way to thaw is in a sink full of hot water—yup, it’s safe!

3. Cook more than you need. If you are cooking a meal for two, you might as well cook for four. Cooking for four? Why not cook for eight? That way, you have a double dinner!

4. Parchment paper. If you don’t already use parchment paper to line your pans before you bake or roast something in the oven, you’re working too hard on clean up! This oven-safe paper will cut your scrubbing in half! Boom!

5. Chop the veggies beforehand. Wash and cut that broccoli and cauliflower after you get it home. Same goes for making pepper strips, slicing mushrooms and peeling Brussels sprouts. Do that work all at once (or even better, put the kids to work!). Place all those veggies in zipper bags and you have grab and go veggies that you can either snack on raw or quickly steam for a side dish. Keep carrot sticks and celery sticks in a bowl of water in the fridge (keeps them fresh!), and let the kids help themselves when they need a snack.

6. Go with salad. Making a big raw salad is much quicker than any other side dish you can possibly think of! And if you have some leftover protein, voila, there’s a quick dinner!

7. Plan ahead. This would arguably be the number one shortcut when it comes to getting dinner under control. Planning your meals for the week puts you in complete control of the dinner table. We created the original meal-planning service on the Internet with our Menu- Mailer. We provide you with a menu for the week, along with recipes and shopping lists! Thousands of people are currently hooked on this service.


Looking in the refrigerator


Budget-friendly crock pot meals

Budget-friendly crock pot meals

By: Leanne Ely


It seems like the more you do to feed your family properly, the harder it is to keep the grocery budget in check.

Using the crock cooker is a great way to stretch a dollar for several reasons.

• You can use tougher, less expensive cuts of meat
• Traditional crock cooker meals like chili and soup tend to go a long way
• The convenience of this appliance saves you from spending money on take out
• Crock cookers use less electricity than stoves

Today, I’m going to share some tips with you to help you save even more money with this beloved kitchen appliance.

Make your own stock. If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty big on making stock. With a slow cooker, you shouldn’t ever have to buy canned or boxed broth again. Simply save up bones (I keep one zipper bag for chicken bones and one for beef), trimmings and juices from your roasts and freeze them until you have enough to fill your crock pot about half full. When you have enough, put them in the crock pot, fill the crock 3/4 full with water and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours or so. Then, you can use this homemade broth in your crock cooker recipes and for other uses.

Cook more than you need. Buy a very large, inexpensive chuck roast. Even if it’s much more than your family needs—as long as it will fit in your crock pot, bring it home with you. Put it in the crock pot, fill the crock cooker half way with water (which I would do only for cheap cuts of meat), and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours. Portion the meat and use it throughout the week in lunches and dinners. You can even freeze some of the meat to take out later in the month.

Buy from the Clean 15 list. Even if you make an effort to buy organic whenever possible, you can save a little bit of money on your grocery bill. Use crock cooker recipes that call for ingredients from the Clean 15 instead of the Dirty Dozen list so you can buy the less expensive, conventionally grown option over organic. (You can learn more about the Clean 15 at ewg.org by the way.) Many Clean 15 items are great for slow cooking, including onions, sweet potatoes and cabbage.

If you’re coming up short on crock cooker meal inspiration, are you in luck!

We have a great promo going on right now on our Crock Cooker Classic and Paleo Menus. Find out more here!

Budget Crock Cooker Ideas

My Top 7 Slow Cooker Safety Tips

My Top 7 Slow Cooker Safety Tips

By: Leanne Ely


I couldn’t function without my slow cooker. You all know by now how I feel about this wonderful, time-saving appliance. If you’re new to slow cooking, or even if you’re a seasoned pro, there are some safety precautions that I hope you’re taking when it comes to this highly efficient way of getting a meal on the table.

Please don’t put another meal in the slow cooker without checking over this list of 7 safety guide-lines:

1. Thaw meat and poultry before placing in the slow cooker. Frozen meats may not reach the safe zone (140 degrees) fast enough and could end up making you sick.

2. Never use the warm setting to cook food. That setting is for when your meal is already cooked, to keep it warm.

3. Preheat the slow cooker on high before you put your meat or poultry inside. This will shorten the amount of time foods spend in the danger zone, before reaching 140 degrees.

4. Don’t use the slow cooker to thaw or reheat foods.

5. While your foods are cooking, do not lift the lid. Every time you open the slow cooker, the tem-perature drops 10–15 degrees and your cooking progress will be slowed by 30 minutes.

6. Check your cooked foods with a thermometer to ensure they are cooked thoroughly. Poultry, soups, stews and sauces should be at 165, while roasts are okay at 145–160.

7. Don’t use the slow cooker to cool down cooked food. Remove food from the crock and then let it cool before placing in the refrigerator.



stewed chicken breast with mushrooms in the crock-pot.

Dandelion Greens…the nutritional superstar + a recipe!

Dandelion Greens…the nutritional superstar + a recipe!

By: Leanne Ely


Most of us are familiar with the common yellow weed that marks the onset of spring and in many parts of the country.

Dandelion greens are the enemy to gardeners everywhere, but these flower bed nuisances are actually real nutritional superstars.

Dandelion greens are very high in vitamins A, B, C and D. They are rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and calcium. Dandelion greens are commonly used in contemporary herbal medicine because of their diuretic properties. They’re used to suppress appetite and as a digestive aid – dandelion greens are great for gut health.

I know dandelion greens are good for me, but I also love their bitter flavor. I enjoy dandelion greens sauteed in some olive oil, rendered bacon fat or a little butter with garlic, onion and some salt and pepper. They are absolutely delicious served alongside bacon and eggs in the morning. Mmm mmm!

Are you getting hungry for dandelion greens?

Now, it’s time for your Trick!

If your lawn is full of dandelion greens in the spring and you are confident that chemical herbicides have not polluted the soil or air around your home, go ahead and harvest your own! Choose pale green leaves (the pale green leaves are tastiest) and get them before the plant flowers. After the dandelion plant flowers, the greens become more bitter. If you can manage to keep the root in tact with the plant, the greens will last longer in the fridge if you’re not eating them right away.

Your Tip:

Wash your dandelion greens thoroughly under running water after you harvest them, or bring them home from the grocery store. Wrap them in damp paper towels and keep them in the fridge for up to a week. You can freeze dandelion greens after they’re cooked.

And your Recipe:
Green Chili Southwest Scrambled Eggs
Serves 4

1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 cups chopped dandelion greens
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 (4-ounce) cans diced green chiles
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 eggs, beaten

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat coconut oil. To the oil, add the next 6 ingredients (dandelion greens through garlic powder). Cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables are slightly tender.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and salt and pepper and pour over the vegetables. Reduce heat to low and stir. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until eggs are set and vegetables are tender. Serve warm.





Composting Made Easy

by Leanne Ely


You know my motto when it comes to eating fruits and veggies: eat fresh, eat local, eat seasonal. The easiest way to stick to that rule of thumb is to grow your own. Whether you have a big garden out in the yard or a few pots of herbs growing in a sunny window, there is a certain satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from eating what you have grown.

When growing your own food you want to start with a solid foundation and this is your soil. One of the best things you can use is compost. Composting is the process in which you allow, and even assist, nature to break down organic matter into a very nutrient-rich dark dirt-like substance. By learning to compost you cut down on the amount of garbage you throw away and consequently, create wonderful nutrients for your garden.


Back Yard Composting

To start composting in your backyard, you simply need to start a pile. Pick a good location in your back yard, it doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or shady, just make sure it’s accessible to water and that it’s an easy spot to add in leaves, garden and grass clippings. Make sure its at least two feet away from any structure (including fences).

You should shoot for a 60/40 blend of brown cuttings to green and food scraps. If you chop everything up first, your composting will go faster. Each time you add to your pile, add some water; don’t soak it but make sure its dampened. If your food scraps were wet when you put them in the pile, that should be enough moisture.

The next and final thing you need to do to your pile is to turn it occasionally. This will keep the heat more stable and keep the “food” at the center of the pile. It also helps to destroy disease by bringing contaminates to the surface so that the heat can destroy them. This will add oxygen which keeps the micro organisms that are breaking down the compost alive, and it also reduces odor.

Back Porch Composting

You can buy many different types of back porch compost systems or “tumblers”. These work well for smaller yards. With a tumbler it is more important to chop the ingredients that you put in it and keep a good mixture of organic materials, brown materials such as shredded dried leaves. Check your moisture level and turn often. If it starts smelling add more brown materials and mix well.

Regardless of what you put in your compost the more organic, unprocessed items the better. Here’s a quick list to help you get the most out of your composting.

Brown — 60% Green — 40% Do Not Add
Sawdust Fresh manure Meat
Eggshells Coffee Grounds Bones
Dried leaves (fall leaves) Fruit Peels Fat
Straw Weeds (annuals) Whole eggs
Cardboard Green plant cuttings Dairy
Paper Green grass clippings Feces from humans or pets
Hay Veggie peels Weeds (pernicious)
Tea bags Hedge trimmings Treated Wood

who knew? (asparagus=lily)

By: Leanne Ely


Happy Tuesday, Y’all!

It’s time once again for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe. Today you’ll learn a tip, a trick and you’ll get a great recipe to try it out with. Neat, huh?

Today’s focus is on Asparagus:

Asparagus are elegant and delicious! Truly in season right now, you can pick them up on sale everywhere. Lots of fiber, easy to cook; delicious to eat. I’ll tell you how!

Here’s today’s TRICK:

SMELL the tops of the asparagus in the store. The tips should NOT be slimy and stinky! Look for ends that aren’t dried out and woody. Some people like thicker asparagus, I prefer the pencil thin variety—you need to decide that one based on your own personal preference.

Here’s a TIP:

My grocery store keeps the asparagus standing upright in water to keep them fresh. You can do this yourself when you bring them home and they’ll last for days in your fridge.

Bonus Tip!

Make a “raft” out of the asparagus using presoaked bamboo skewers (soak the bamboo in water for 30 minutes before barbecuing to prevent them from igniting) and brushing the asparagus with a little olive oil before hand. Let me tell you, asparagus on the grill is just a little slice of heaven. (watch me make them for you)

After you’ve made grilled asparagus on the grill, you won’t want them any other way!

And your RECIPE:


Honey Lemon Salmon and Asparagus
Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes


2 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for coating pan
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pound asparagus spears, ends trimmed
4 medium salmon fillets


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the first 6 ingredients (honey through lemon juice).

In an oil coated 9×13 baking pan, place asparagus and place salmon, skin side down, on top. Pour the mixture from bowl evenly over each piece of salmon. Bake for 15 minutes until salmon is flakey.

Remove from heat and serve fillet of salmon with asparagus on top.

Dinner Answers- No one will eat the other kind of lilies in your house except the cat. Isn’t it time you knew what was for dinner EVERY night? You will with Dinner Answers!